Meet the county supervisor candidates
Today, the Estherville Daily News proudly presents its third of five installments of the annual Question-and-Answer for the General Election.
To be fair to every candidate, answers are being published in order received.
Part five focuses on the Emmet County Supervisor’s Race. Candidates submitting answers are Randy Beaver, Roger Anderson, Bev Juhl, Alan Madden and Tim Schumacher.
Q: Explain your qualifications to be Emmet County supervisor.
Beaver: As a lifelong resident of Emmet County, I have a genuine concern for its economic health and well-being. The supervisors oversee the road department. I was employed for 28 years in that department, having traveled the 450 miles of gravel and 180 miles of black top roads. This experience allows me to bring insight to the board. I have served eight years as a supervisor, working with the budget, other facets of the county, and serving on numerous boards that impact us. I listen to all sides of issues before making a decision, and sometimes it means voting no.
Anderson: I bring a vast amount of experience to the position of Emmet County Supervisor with in-depth knowledge of issues in many areas. I have served on and chaired several committees and boards of directors of local, county and state-wide agencies.
As a county supervisor I have worked extensively in all areas of mental health, including the prevention of domestic violence. Other areas of involvement have included secondary roads, public safety, public health, conservation and economic development. I have chaired the E-911 Board since it was formed.
Juhl: As county auditor for the past 24 years I have worked closely with the board of supervisors, other county officers, department heads, employees and the public. I am retiring as county auditor and will have the time to devote to serving all the people of Emmet County as their supervisor. I believe I can bring a new perspective to the board. I want citizens from all parts of the county to feel they can contact me with their concerns. I will use my experience and working relationships to make the best informed decisions that I can.
Madden: Most importantly I am a resident of Emmet County. I feel that my strong desire to serve the county in some meaningful way is also essential. I feel that my judgement and willingness to observe all aspects of an issue is most important. I have served on the board for four years and honestly feel that I have made my decisions on good thinking and not whether it would negatively affect my chances of re-election.
Schumacher: I believe I bring a unique background to the position as I have worked as a mechanic, farmer, teacher, real estate manager, developer and business operator. During my 17 years in Emmet County I have served as a member of the Estherville Ambassadors, Estherville Area Arts Council, and the Rotary Club. I meet challenges by immersing myself in the many aspects of the issue and then selecting the best possible solution based on fairness, efficiency and effectiveness.
Q: Do you believe our county roads are adequately maintained? What changes would you possibly make in the maintenance schedule?
Beaver: Our roads and workers are as good any in the state; thus, the roads are adequately maintained with the funds available to us and considering weather and heavier loads on roads that were not meant for those types of equipment impact the condition. Class B roads were established to save money by not plowing snow on these type of roads.
Changes I would consider are speeding up our snow removal, getting some ditches cleaned, and haul more gravel. With the cost of fuel, I believe we need to better manage our outer shed employees.
Anderson: Emmet County is known for having a quality Secondary Road System, which I have supported.
Costs are increasing for equipment and maintenance. In addition there are fewer federal and state funds for road and bridge repair. A very careful analysis of the overall secondary road budget will be an important priority.
I will continue to work closely with everyone involved in the decision-making process to keep our roads and bridges as safe as possible for the traveling public.
Juhl: I think our county roads have been very well maintained. Due to rising costs of fuel, equipment and supplies it is going to be difficult to continue to maintain our infrastructure as it is currently. It is the county engineer’s responsibility to oversee the maintenance schedule with input from the supervisors. Reviewing the policies and operations of the road department on an ongoing basis is necessary to contain costs.
Madden: I feel that our roads are adequately maintained especially when one considers the constant strain on the budget from ever increasing costs of materials, fuel and equipment. I am actually pretty proud of our roads after traveling the secondary roads in other counties. It is easy to not feel so proud when traveling on Highway 9 yet we are at the mercy of the Iowa DOT when it comes to those repairs. I hope that Emmet County secondary roads can continue to get by with the resources available while always looking for ways to do better.
Schumacher: I believe that our county engineer is doing the best job possible given the funding and the road conditions we currently have. I am open to discussing changes in the maintenance schedule but also believe that we have hired an engineer as an expert to make those recommendations. Certainly we would always like to see improvement in all aspects of our county government and one can agree or disagree with the methods of achieving that end but I see the job of the supervisor to weigh the facts, budget, and special circumstances of the situation to find the most effective and best possible solutions for Emmet County.
Q: Explain your position on the concept of countywide law enforcement?
Beaver: Being that the sheriff was not running for re-election, I felt this was the perfect time to look at combining all law enforcement under one person and see how much money could be saved. The issue of everyone working together was to also be considered. A committee was established to study it; and unfortunately, nothing has been reported to the board on this issue. Thus, if this would save money and be a viable alternative for the whole county, I do favor the concept.
Anderson: When looking at law enforcement, I believe the public wants two things: first, comprehensive and responsive coverage in all situations and second, accomplishing this without excessive spending.
The concept of countywide law enforcement makes sense in a small county like Emmet. In counties where this has been implemented, it has worked better in some than in others.
If this initiative is to become a reality, it will require accepting leadership from a consultant with practical experience; someone who can work with everyone involved in the decision-making process, in an open, non-threatening manner, applying logic and practical steps to move forward.
Juhl: The sheriff is the chief law enforcement official in the county. By law every incorporated town is responsible for providing law enforcement for their citizens. Currently the sheriff has an agreement with all the towns that do not have their own police department. Effectively there already is countywide law enforcement. There are other ways to structure countywide law enforcement and a few counties have done that. Some are happy with the results, others are not. If the question is submitted to the voters it needs to be structured correctly, in the best interest of all the citizens and taxpayers.
Madden: Countywide law enforcement was addressed again in 2008 with the board of supervisors meeting with city officials from all municipalities. One outcome from those sessions was that other counties have combined all law successfully. The main objective of combined law should be to save tax dollars while providing good service. The Iowa code prevents those savings from being substantial if any at all. The next best approach is to have all law enforcement departments work in concert to provide good service at the lowest cost. In my opinion this is the best choice given the difficulties the Iowa Code presents with the issue of funding
Schumacher: I feel that it is important for all of our county and city officials to work closely to increase efficiency and effectiveness both financially and with respect to personnel. Pertaining to law enforcement, I believe that both the police and sheriff’s offices will benefit from the sharing of information and efforts. While their operational focus is somewhat different, law enforcement doesn’t begin and end at the city boundaries. By working together, the two entities can better address the challenges we face in the city and county/regional arenas.
Q: How would you try to keep expenses down in Emmet County? In what areas would you cut funding?
Beaver: We need to look at attrition when someone retires or quits. Another option is to look at combining jobs or sharing with the city or other counties.
All areas will be cut some due to the General Basic levee being at $3.85 with the most we can charge being $3.50. Seven years ago we lost $60,000,000 in ag valuation so the state allowed us to raise our levee. Next year we go back to valuations. The mental health levee is maxed out at $820,000, of which $720,000 is mandatory. Rural Services levee is at 85 percent.
Anderson: In my past experience in the county budgeting process, I have listened to input from county employees, talked with county officials from several areas in the state and conferred with key advisors at the Iowa State Association of Counties. I believe that the Emmet County Supervisors have kept expenses at a reasonable level. Any decisions made have come after careful analysis of each situation. Before making any cuts in budget areas I would look for creative and innovative approaches to keep, where possible, existing programs that benefit Emmet County Citizens.
Juhl: I feel all the department heads in Emmet County try to keep their expenses as low as they can while at the same time continuing to provide services to the public. There are some things that the county is mandated by law to do and have to be funded. I would work with department heads at budget time and throughout the year to contain the costs. Maintaining quality services for Emmet County citizens is an important priority
Madden: Emmet County has been holding or cutting funding for several years after the huge valuation drop experienced over four years ago. Non-mandated services have been gone through many changes to the point that discretionary services are small. Many problems stem from past federal and state grants or revenues that created services and now those funds are not available. Every department of the county needs to be vigilant on spending as well as what non-tax revenues may be available. Sharing with other counties should be considered at every opportunity.
Schumacher: I would look closely at our county budget to see what we can afford without putting undue tax burdens on our citizens. I think we must be realistic about our expenditures as they relate to our tax base because they have a direct correlation to the county’s economic health.
At 2.8 million and 1.8 million dollars respectively, secondary roads and mental health seem to be obvious targets but the answer is not that simple. I feel that our infrastructure is critical to maintaining and improving the future of our county. I would work diligently to pursue some alternative funding for county health as we must be realistic about the services we can afford to provide. I would certainly compare our budget to other counties of similar size and tax base in Iowa.
Q: What role do you believe the county should play in economic development?
Beaver: Emmet County is currently a partner with EIDC and has assisted other areas of the county for economic development. Currently we give $25,000 a year to the Iowa Lakes Corridor, which was established to bring business to a four-county area. I believe it is imperative for our overall stability that our county continues to have economic development. The county should provide volunteers that work on this, every member needs to be listening and looking for prospects, and if extra funds are available, we do what we can. With the passage of the 1-cent sales tax, it may allow monetary participation.
Anderson: An economic development proposal was one of the first issues I dealt with as Emmet County Supervisor. County support of new and existing industries and businesses is vitally important, as it will expand our tax base and help grow our local economy by providing new jobs. The result is educational opportunities, better health care and more available recreation.
Our county is also part of the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation.
Our membership is helping to promote Emmet County and its workforce as an attractive site for business development.
Juhl: I think everyone in Emmet County needs to work together for economic development. No matter where in the county the development happens it is good for the whole county. We need a higher tax base to provide the needed funding for not only the county but also the schools, cities, college and other tax levying bodies. The board has been involved in the past and needs to continue to promote Emmet County for economic development.
Madden: Everyone in the county needs to play a role in economic development. We have to sell ourselves everyday. The county should provide an environment that makes businesses want to locate and grow their businesses here. I do not feel that the board needs to re-invent the wheel by actively seeking businesses but should continue to work with entities such as EIDC and the Lakes Corridor. The board should work hard to keep the community of Emmet friendly by keeping property taxes under control.
Schumacher: I would like to see our county supervisors take a hands-on approach to developing the economic welfare of Emmet County. While we do financially support the efforts of the EIDC and the Great Lakes Corridor, I don’t think that those contributions should be the extent of our efforts. I think that the supervisors have done a good job of maintaining the daily business of the county but I would like to see increased visibility in the area of building our future as a thriving and economically healthy destination.